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Digitalisation Barriers & Policy Intervention

In Q1's Policy Feature, we're shining a spotlight on our work with UNITAR (CIFAL) Jeju, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research based in South Korea, with whom we led a global human centred capacity building initiative just this month, focused on digitalisation barriers and policy intervention.

Those who know us well, know that we do a considerable amount of work on digitalisation and indeed this is part of our core set of competencies. Our role in the field of public policy and development is often to create a bridge, between policymakers and practitioners, where our deep knowledge and expertise in the sector sets us apart when it comes to identifying policy needs and priorities. This is, of course, always coupled with valuable first-hand experience and insights.

Working in public policy, our work frequently leads us to reflect and update our knowledge on the tourism value chain, barriers to digitalisation and policy needs. So what happens if you tip the 'expert' first approach on its head and instead source insight through co-design methods? This is where the process of shaping policy, is at very least, heavily supported by those future leaders who will inevitably be identified as part of the solution - through so called 'capacity building' initiatives.

This is exactly what we did with a cohort of 80 participants from every corner of the world with UNITAR. Those who joined were undertaking an invaluable professional training programme conducted entirely online, based on the 'CIFAL' framework (Centre International de Formation des Autorités et Leaders), which is focused on strengthening the capacity needs of government officials and civil society leaders to advance sustainable development. The outcomes were extraordinary and demonstrate that today's capacity building needs must not focus on traditional 'training', but rather they must create empowerment and support the development of soft leadership skills, essential for tackling the complexity of today's challenges.

This was the first time the DTTT has worked together with UNITAR. It was great to get to know more about the brilliant work they're doing to develop capabilities, in particular within South East Asia, where many of our participants were based. With that, it was great to see such strong expertise shining through an unlikely cohort of academics, government officials and entrepreneurs. All were committed to furthering their knowledge and leadership capabilities through the programme. Working with the UNITAR CIFAL Jeju team in South Korea, we were especially excited when they embraced our vision for implementing an online co-design approach based on a collaborative three-part programme, where 80 participants from different countries and backgrounds would be split into 8 groups, within which they would explore a number of different themes collaboratively.

So what was the outcome? Well, aside from each group learning how to work with remote-design tools such as Mural to conduct collaborative ideation sessions, we succeeded in identifying more than 30 barriers to digitalisation and 30 policy recommendations. All of this, sourced from a rich array of regional and professional perspectives, narrowed down from hundreds of ideas generated. It is an incredible achievement deriving from an efficient online collaborative process. The diverse perspectives provide a valuable enrichment of the process, whilst the focus on reaching a common goal gave a great sense of momentum.

The process started with a range of industry and expert perspectives, designed to spark ideas and provide unique insights, where the DTTT also provided some perspective. The intense ideation process, in which participants connected from around the world, often at anti-social hours, is where true insights were nonetheless generated. WIth participants split into different Zoom breakout rooms, we were pleasantly surprised to drop in and out of these rooms and see that not only was the lightning fast remote design-training actually translating into tangible co-design outcomes, but that a natural sense of self-organisation had largely taken place within each group.

Groups largely picked-up the challenge and moved through a series of discussion areas gathering individual experiences and ideas, eventually forming an alignment of conclusions and recommendations. To say that the outcome was entirely presumed would be untrue for the simple fact that the success of such remote sessions is rarely a given. What it did demonstrate however, is that with the right commitment from those participating - a true determination to further their capabilities and benefit from such an opportunity, together with a respect for the process and willingness to participate, incredible results can be achieved.

Furthermore, the assumption that we all too often make is that leadership and years of experience go hand-in-hand, should be more readily challenged. Whilst there is much to be said for years of experience, there is just as much to be said for perspective of the lived, current experiences.

As experts, it is important to recognise our role as facilitators - to inspire, offer structure and sometimes insight and perspective, which might not be considered. However, the outcome here shows the enormous capacity that exists and the first-hand knowledge that is privilege to those who experience it directly. Their contribution, one could argue, is the most valuable in understanding, identifying and exploring possible solutions where policy can help to overcome barriers in tourism today.

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